This is my last column before Christmas, so I thought I’d kill three birds with one stone. I’m going to give you a remodeling tip, make it holiday-related and update you a little on the remodel of my dream home, all at the same time!

Here you see two before-photos. One is a close-up of the staircase and the other a wide-open view that takes in part of the dining and living room with the kitchen behind the wall. (much more on kitchen later!)


So what could possibly be my holiday-related tip? Whether you’re building or remodeling or making structural changes, it’s the perfect time to consider not only the big picture, but smaller details as well. Why not? And since it’s Christmastime, I’m thinking about my Christmas tree niche.

One thing that’s always bugged me about this house is that door right by the staircase. It leads to a very small hall closet, behind which is the kitchen pantry. Since we’re doing a major remodel, I decided to do something about it.

That area could never hold a real focal point because of the distracting door. But simply sealing it off, creating a blank wall, and incorporating the old closet space into an expanded pantry means that for most of the year I can put a table, sculpture, or other great focal pieces there. Furthermore, it is easier to transform your pantry nowadays thanks to companies like Kitchen Wise, which provides custom-designed pantry storage. It is so much easier to get organized and see all the supplies that I actually have in my pantry, as well as looking more fashionable. Anyway, utilizing this space gave us the perfect spot for a Christmas tree.

Think about it. For many of us, Christmas is the biggest celebration of the year, especially if you have kids. It’s never too early to start planning, especially if you have walls open during construction. Consider where your tree will go. And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, ask yourself what tweaks can you make to give yourself a great focal point space? Are there outlets nearby? Is the space in view of many rooms? Is it out of pathways? Is it not too limited by height?


I checked off all these on my list, plan to seal off that wall and already picked out a narrow, 10-foot Christmas tree that can be viewed from many directions, including upstairs.

So that’s my gift to myself. And I hope this tip will help you give this gift to yourself in the future. Merry Christmas!

Cathy Lee is a home style expert, speaker, president and designer of Cathy Lee Style. Her redesigns of residential and business spaces have been featured in local and national publications and on HGTV. For more info and inspiring photos of design projects, visit And keep up with Cathy’s dream home makeover at her photo blog, Homefront.